Dealing with Header and Footer Weirdness

Many Word users dread creating long documents with multiple sections because you need to get deeply involved in making headers and footers work. Let’s face it, the way Word deals with headers and footers is a pain. To get to your headers and footers, you can either choose View|Header and Footer, or double click an existing header or footer in the grayed out area in Print Layout view.

Either way, your header and footer becomes editable and you see the Header and Footer toolbar. That’s where the fun starts. Suppose for example, that you have a document where you want to have each new chapter name display in the header. If you move the chapters around or edit the text, your headers may go nuts.

Most of the aggravation surrounding headers and footers stems from one button: the Same As Previous button in the Header and Footer toolbar. This feature is a convenience if you want all your headers and footers to look the same. (Then again, if you are creating multiple sections in a document, you probably don’t want the section headers and footers to look the same – that might be why you created sections in the first place.) The idea is that you use the Same as Previous button to tell Word to copy the header from the previous section into the current one.

The concept sounds nice, but it can drive you crazy when header information is copied to sections where you don’t want it. It’s sort of a creepy ripple effect, and if it’s happened to you, I’m sure you k now what I mean. My advice to keep yourself from losing your mind is to make sure that when you edit headers and footers always break the Same as Previous link for each section. As you click the Show Next or Show Previous buttons to go through the headers or footers, your goal is to see no little "Same as Previous" text on the right hand side above the dotted rectangle surrounding the header or footer.

After you’ve broken the links, it’s easy to just copy the information that is the same from one header to the next and edit it. Remember, your goal is to make sure that the Same As Previous button is never activated (it looks sort of pushed in or grayed out when it’s deactivated). If you already have text in the header or footer, and a lot of sections, deactivating the Same As Previous button can cause unexpected things to happen. After you unlink every section, you can copy what you want into the header or footer without anything automatic messing up your document.

About Susan Daffron

Susan Daffron is the author the Alpine Grove Romantic Comedies and multiple award-winning nonfiction books, including several about pets and animal rescue. Check out all her books on her Amazon Author page.